Not that booty! War booty. Beutepanzer.
Last year, just last month in fact, I announced that I intended to publish a pack of scenarios in 2024. A couple of weeks ago I completed the final design for the pack. While it remains untested other designs continue to see play, including another design that I released for testing earlier this month.
Today’s post is not about these cards, however. It’s about “Booty Call.”
There’s a lot going on in this compact, counter-insurgency clash. First, some background.
Axis Operation Spring Clean began on 18 April 1943. Its goal was the eradication of partisan detachments operating in the Kudever’ and Novorzhev districts of the Kalinin Region, roughly 100 kilometres west of Kholm, Russia. This heavily forested lake-country was sparsely populated and serviced by poor roads. By mid morning, the force under Colonel Paul Gallas had made contact near Rudnevo, 15 kilometres south of Novorzhev. Stiffer resistance from partisans in prepared positions outside Lunevka, some two kilometres farther south, brought the advance to a halt. The next day saw probes southward—the partisans having withdrawn during the night—and more powerful assets brought forward. On the 20th, the battlegroup resumed the offensive. In the interim, three partisan detachments had converged on Lake Lobno. Gallas now faced a 1500-strong force.
In “Booty Call” Axis forces have their work cut out for them. An entire village to secure. Tempering their plans is a Casualty Victory Point (CVP) cap that their enemy is hellbent on hitting.
On a damp spring day in late April, an advance guard of Kampfgruppe Gallas, 281. Sicherungs-Division became bogged down in a bloody battle for a non-descript Russian village in the Kalinin Region. Defending the ramshackle settlement were men of the 8th Karlikov (after their commander) Detachment. They were but one of several detachments operating in the area, subordinated to the Kalinin Partisan Brigade. Neither the dilapidated houses nor the sparse new foliage provided much cover. Although the snow had melted and the ground had thawed, in places fields and high-traffic areas remained sodden, as streams continued to shed the recent snow melt.
With these conditions in mind, I chose board 89—from Winter Offensive Bonus Pack 14, as my battleground. The map depicts a rustic scene. A strung-out collection of dwellings borders a gully that runs parallel to these structures. Small fields nearby mark it as a modest agricultural settlement. I really like this map. It’s more believeable than board 48, with its central crossroad that assigns the village more importance than it deserves. The shellholes on board 89 are an interesting addition, seldom (if ever) seen on post-Avalon Hill boards.
|Battlefield - board 89 - Russian village in April 1943
The Partisans in “Booty Call” are a far cry from the underwhelming forces depicted in many scenarios found in their eponymous ASL module. If I were to draw a comparison with one of the classic Partisan scenarios though, it would be with “A New Kind of Foe.” This Rex Martin design involves a mix of Partisan and Russian units, and therefore a mix of squad types and weapons atypical of most “Partisan” OB on the eastern front. My design is likewise an amalgam of “traditional” Partisans and Red Army personnel specifically assigned to Partisan Brigades operating behind German lines.
I initially considered giving the Partisans a horse-drawn 37mm PP obr. 15R Infantry Gun, but the rules overhead for these reinforcements outweighed any potential game impact. Instead, I gave the Partisans a number of conventional and unconvential anti-tank assets with which to counter the Beutepanzer. The most obvious of these is the superb, if mismatched, PTRD-41 anti-tank rifle (ATR).
|PTRD-41 in Partisan Order of Battle
In contrast, the 37mm PM-39 cannot destroy an enemy tank in “Booty Call.” At best, this “spade” mortar can Immobilize or Shock a Hotchkiss on a double-one. The Demo Charge (DC) promises greater rewards. Delivering the explosives is the hard part.
So I gave the Partisans the ability to generate (DC) Suicide Heroes (W6.4). Ahistoric? Maybe. The rules from the Korean War module nonetheless provide a convenient mechanism that allows me to increase the prospects of a successful attack on German AFV. Design for effect.
Why not give the Partisans Molotov Cocktails (MOL) you might ask? I had considered it. However, because the scenario objective grants the Germans automatic Control of any building Blaze, MOL capability has a consequential downside. Oops, I dropped the burning bottle in my own Location. I was also drawn to the ease with which the Russian-coloured counters of the KPA blended into the Partisan OB during play. In the end, these suicidal men pose a serious threat to German armour, even without a DC. And from the defender’s perspective their use is relatively risk free. Of course, I could allow these heroes (only) to Check for MOL in CC...
|37mm PM-39 mortar in Partisan Order of Battle
The backbone of the Partisan force are better armed squads, some with PPSH-41 submachine guns. Commissars stiffen their resolve. And a meagre supply of anti-personnel (AP) mines keeps the Axis player guessing.
|Submachine gun squads in Partisan Order of Battle
“Vere are your papers?”
The Sicherungs or Security division in “Booty Call” brings a fascinating cast of characters to the stage. A beleaguerd company of bicycle troops—from Radfahr-Regiment 3—must endure a ferocious counterattack until the proverbial cavalry quite literally arrives.
Cavalry plays a duel role in this scenario. In addition to relieving pressure on the security troops corralled into the northern end of the village, they represent a second front, another avenue of attack that the Partisans need to account for in their defensive plans. I used Hungarian 3-4-7 squads to represent the Ukrainian Cossacks, partly because I didn’t want this flanking force to be too strong. I also liked the Close-Combat dynamic created by their FP Factor. It gives them parity versus 70 percent of Partisan squads, but puts them at a disadvantage when facing other units, especially the SMG squads. Their leadership cadre is similarly mediocre. However, their LMG are superior to anything on board, giving them the ability to create a firebase beyond the normal range of all Partisan weapons save the MMG (and ATR). Even at long range, these Czech-made LMG pose a serious threat to broken units. With its ability to inflict Desperation Morale (DM) on units as far as 14 hexes away, the 2-7 LMG warrants attention.
|Cossacks and Czech ZB vz. 26 light machine guns in Axis Order of Battle
The last Axis reinforcements comprise two powerful elements. The first is a platoon of assault pioneers recruited from dissidents of the Soviet regime. Represented by Second Line Volksgrenadier squads, they require a deft hand in order to bring their flamethrowers to bear. The second component is a platoon of Panzerkampfwagen 38H 735(f), upgraded ex-French tanks. Despite their increasing obsolescence Beutepanzer proved to be effective in anti-partisan operations.
|38H 735(f) Beutepanzer in Axis Order of Battle
Who you gonna call?
Axis security forces are going to be busy. They have to Control all 34 building Locations to win. They need to capitalize on all of their assets in order to seize all of their objectives in six short turns. But first, they need to weather a violent counterattack, conserving their onboard force until the pendulum starts to swing the other way.
|Very well-armed Partisans
Nikolai Shipovalov, commander of the Kalinin Partisan Brigade, had concentrated the bulk of his 2nd Detachment north of the bottleneck created by lakes Lobno and Ale. The Karlikov and Babakov detachments, meanwhile, were fighting delaying actions as they withdrew toward him. Lacking in firepower, his brigade was nonetheless a seaoned formation, having fought behind enemy lines for almost two years. A mix of regular and irregular soldiers, his men had previous experience in combatting German security troops inside Kholm and numerous hit-and-run ambushes. They had limited ordnance, often supplied by air, but were practiced in getting the most out of what weapons, ammunition and explosives they did have.
Will Operation Spring Clean be a clean sweep? Or will the home team prevail? Find out when the pack is released. Or sign up today to playtest it!